July 2007

The life of a Tamilian or anyone for that matter would not be complete without using Quotes, Proverbs and Old Sayings when they communicate. Mostly these old sayings are used as a guide to one’s moral behaviour and a disciplined life. The origin of most of these old sayings and quotes are quite unknown but they have a real good impact on peoples’ lives even to the present day. Those sayings are experiences of our ancestors that have been passed on till today.

The interesting part of some of these old quotes is that some of them have had a very interesting transformation, so that people are oblivious of its original meaning. Also the new meanings given to those quotes are quite relevant too! The most interesting part is that the original meaning is conveyed so elegantly, short and concise. Some of them even have a story or a legend behind them. Some of these quotes have some word transformations too that might make them more relevant and interesting.

Let us see take a look at the first one

“Aarilum Saavu, Noorilum Saavu”

the present day meaning, Death occurs even at the age of six and at the age of hundred

Aaru – Six
Saavu – Death
Nooru – One hundred

This meaning is quite acceptable and is advised to those in dejection in life and console them or bring some confidence in them. So that the affected persons will throw off their worries and get back to normalcy. Because in this world people die at the age of six and at the age of hundred, so there is no point in being dejected or disoriented. Just live the life until you can and put in your best efforts.

But the actual meaning is a way different and has a story behind it too, but there is a subtle similarity between the old and new meanings. The saying was to illustrate the position of Karnan, the greatest and the most generous person of all times. The story is that Karnan came to know that he is the son of Kunti Devi, making him the eldest of the Five Pandavas. So including him there are six Pandavas. The enemies of Pandavas – The Kauravas – were 100 in number. Karnan was in a confusion, whether to fight against the Kauravas, joining as the sixth force among the Pandavas, or to fight against his brothers joining the 100 Kauravas. Finally, the gratitude he owed to Dhuryodhana won and made him think, that even if I fight as the Six Pandavas and 100 Kauravas, the result is going to be his death. So he did not want to betray his friend Dhuryodhana who helped him get the recognition he has now. And he fought with Dhuryodhana and died as a great warrior that even Lord Krishna held him his high regards.

The next one is still interesting

“Shiva Poojayil Karadi Pugundha Maadhiri”

meaning, a bear entering when the Pooja (Worship) is being conducted for Lord Shiva. Which is, obstructive to the holy or the auspicious event happening.

Pooja – Worship
Karadi – Bear
Pugundha – Entering
Maadhiri – like

This quote is used when there is any hindrance during an auspicious or an important event is going on.

But actually the meaning of it has been misinterpreted. Karadi also means a wind instrument that resembles a circular shaped long horn. The Karadi is blown when the worship, especially the Deepa Aradhana is being performed in a Lord Shiva’s Pooja. So the sound of the Karadi entering the Shiva’s Pooja indicate something important happening inside the Sanctum. But later this quote got misinterpreted, with the Karadi (the bear) for Karadi (The horn).

“Kallai Kandaal Naayai Kanom
Naayai Kandaal Kallai Kanom”

meaning, when you find a stone to pelt, the dog is missing. And when you find a dog, there is no stone to pelt at it.

Kall – Stone
Kandaal – Seeing, finding
Naai – Dog
Kanom – Missing

But actually this quote refers to the statue of Lord Bhairava, a form of Shiva with the Dog has his mount. It is rather told to describe the gestalt in finding the supreme being. When you see the Lord Bhairava statue as a stone, you don’t see the divine aspect in it. But if you see the divine aspect you don’t see the stone in it.

The next one might be a bit scary, so reader’s discretion is advised.

“Kazhudhai Thaeindhu Katterumbu Aana Kadhai”

meaning, The story of a donkey depreciating to a small ant.

Kazhudhai – Donkey
Thaeindhu – Depreciate, Worn out
Katterumbu – Ant (A ferocious variety, who sting is very painful)
Aana – becoming
Kadhai – Story

Actually this saying is transformed from the saying

“Kazhu Thaeindhu Kattirumbu Aana Kadhai”

meaning, the Kazhumaram depreciating or getting worn out into useless scrap of iron

Kazhu – Kazhumaram, a conical shaped made of tree or iron fully lubricated with oil, where criminals are mounted on it on the sitting position. The criminals will have painful death
Kattirumbu – Kattu (a small bulk) + Irumbu (Iron) – A small bulk of useless iron

This means that if the Kazhumaram goes to a useless scrap, then it means so many people have been punished that it has worn out to nothing. Pretty awful and frightening.

The final one is

“Adi Udhavukindra Maadhiri
Annan Thambi Udhava Maatargal”

meaning, Brothers, elder and younger, won’t be helpful as beating and thrashing someone helps in getting something done.

Adi – Beating, Thrashing, Chappals, Bottom most thing, Feet
Udhavi – Help
Maadhiri – like
Annan – Elder Brother
Thambi – Younger Brother
Maatargal – Negation of accepting to do things

The actual meaning is that of from Ramayana. When Lord Rama when to the forests for 14 years giving up the country and throne to his brother Bharatha. Bharatha came running meet Lord Rama and asked begged him to come back to the country and accept the throne. And Bharatha said that he will not to sit on the throne that his brother Rama deserves. Rama advised Bharatha a lot, but in vain. The people in the country were really sad that they do not have a King to rule the country. Bharatha then requested Rama for his Padhugai and told that he will run the country with the Rama’s Padhugai in place of Rama in the throne, until Rama comes back from the forest after 14 years. So it means that as the Adi (Padhugai) helped to rule the country, the elder brother Rama and the younger brother Bharatha did not help the people in being the King and ruling the country.

Though these quotes have transformed in content and meaning over time, the actual message that was conveyed has to pass on too. These quotes have been passed on for generations with the literal or more straight-forwardly applicable meaning taking predominance. The actual meaning, if any, should be probed and preserved for the days to come

More to come, until then…


Its been a long time since there was a post about temples. Recently I had a chance to visit one of the ancient treasures we have. The temple is Muruganathaswamy Temple at Thirumurugan Poondi. The temple dates back to around 2000 years. It is said that the temple was built by a Chera King and was popular those days. This temple is where Lord Muruga worshipped Lord Shiva and hence the name Thirumurugan Poondi. The main deity is Lord Shiva in the name Muruganathaswamy, and Goddess Parvathi in the name Muyangupoon Mulaiyammai. Lord Muruga, is also a prime deity in this temple. The speciality of the Murugan sculpture is that it has six faces carved in a single stone and is so beautifully done. There is also a legend that Sundaramoorthy Nayanar was plundered of the things he had with him. The temple is located at about 5 Kms from Avinashi on the way to Tiruppur. The temple has a lot of inscriptions carved along the walls. One inscription read Rajendra Devar which mean King Rajendra Cholan has also donated many things to maintenance and renovation of this temple.

The mandapam at the entrance of the Temple

The corridor in front of the temple

The Nandi on top of the Kanaga Sabai Mandapam

The Vimanam of the Murugan Temple

Another view of the Vimanam of the Murugan Temple

Another view of the Murugan Temple Vimanam

Gopinath and Sathiyaraj in lateral side of the Vimanam

Gopinath and me in lateral side of the Vimanam

Another angle of the Murugan Temple Vimanam

The Vimanamam of The Lord Shiva (Muruganathaswamy)

Another view of the Vimanam of the main deity

A close-up view of the main Vimanam

Inscriptions on the walls

A close-up view of the sculptures on the walls

A devotee falling at the feet of the Shivalingam

Another view from inside the temple

The temple vimana from the south side, with Lord Dakshinamoorthy

The main temple vimanam from behind

Another view of the temple vimanam

The Vedu Pari

The Vedu Pari

The Vimanam of the Amman temple

The Madappalli, where offerings are prepared

The main vimanam from the North

Three Vimanam in a single shot

The main Vimanam and the Amman Temple Vimanam

The side view of the Amman Temple Vimanam

The Nandhi Well

Entrance to the Nandhi well

The corridor in front of the temple

Another view of the corridor

The Kodi Maram

The Temple Madhil (Outer wall)

The temple Theertham (Well)

View inside the temple Well

Gopinath and Sathiyaraj in front of the temple Madhil

Lush green lawn around the Temple

The view of the temple from outside the Madhil

A well that is the outer Prakaram

Outside view of the well

The temple is a archaeological wonder that stands to this day. The temple is now maintained by the Archaeological Society of India (ASI) and is declared as a National Heritage Monument.

More to come, until then…

The famous “Paati Vaidhiyam” (Grandma’s medication), used to cure some minor ailments, is being followed in some homes even today. The practice of Paati Vaidhiyam has been passed on for generations that people are able to understand the problem of an ailment or disease and are able to diagnose and cure it correctly. They are able to do it because, they knew the characteristics of the diseases and, most importantly, the characteristics of the medicines that were used to cure them. Medicines in the sense, are nothing but herbs and other eatables that are used in the day to day life.

These substances with medicinal value are not only used on the incidence of an ailment, rather it was used regularly that prevented the incidence of that ailment, leading to a healthy and properous lives. Nowadays, only some homes are gifted with the people with the knowledge of Paati Vaidhiyam, but the rest are not, because there is no one to tell the medicinal characteristics of the things that we used and consume in our day to day life. And such treasures get lost from that generation onwards and once lost it is lost forever. Only a few people take some effort to make a note of these so that it get propagated into the future. The advantage of Paati Vaidhiyam is that it diagnoses and cures the ailment perfectly and without any side-effects

Our siddhars have took the pains to analyse the cause and treatment of the diseases and they have mentioned preparations to cure many diseases completely without any side-effects. The classification of the diseases and the treatment itself forms a great reference in the field of Medicine. Not all such references can be used by the common man, because it requires some background in medicine. However, there is one such great reference that can be used even by the common man. It is a rare treasure named “Padhartha Guna Chintamani” (Padhartham – Eatables, Gunam – Characteristic, Chintamani – The one that bestows all good things). It is one comprehensive reference that explains the medical characteristics about the food items and the utensils used to prepare those food items. It explains the medical characteristics of over 1000 items. The author of this masterpiece is a Siddhar named, Theraiyar. Theraiyar is the disciple and student of Agathiar. He is also known to be best student and has written many medical texts of which some perished and some remain.

Many legends exist about Theraiyar, let us see a few of them. The name Theraiyar is because when King of country had a severe chronic pain in his head, he treated it by opening the king’s skull and removing the small toad from the King’s head. Therai means Toad in Tamil. As he removed the toad from the King’s head he is named after that Theraiyar It is also said that Avaiyar met Agathiar and asked him to take Theraiyar as his student. Theraiyar was the most illustrious student of Agathiar, that there is a legend that he turned a mountain into gold using herbs and got the praise of Agathiar.

Theraiyar’s work, the Padhartha Guna Chintamani, is one of the masterpieces that exist even today. It is great collection and a central reference about the medical characteristics of the things that humans normally consume in their day to day life and the ones that are not normally consumed. It describes the characteristics of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. It not only describes about the items that are eaten. It also describes the characteristics of the utensils used to prepare and serve the items consumed, for example, the medicinal characteristics of stone utensils used to prepare food or medicines is described.

Let us see some of the songs from that text. I have tried to give exact meanings for these songs, but in some cases, due to the medical nature, I have tried to give approximately correct meanings. The following song describes about the various parts of the plantain tree.

“Narrkadhali Andham Anall Nalgum Thando Kudalil
Sikkum Mayir Thol Nanjum Theerthidumkaan Thokkuru Poo
Megam Ozhikkum Pinjaal Venkaduppu Yaegum Kaayaal
Dhegam Muzhukka Kaalam Thaer”

meaning, the tuber of the plantain increases the body’s internal heat, the stem cures ailments in the stomach and intestines, the flower cures skin disorders, the tender fruit cures ailments due to increase in body heat. Unripe fruit cause Vaadham (The proportion of air that exists in the human body) to accumulate causing bodyaches etc.

The following songs illustrates the properties of ginger

“Injikilangukku Irumal Aiyam Okkaalam
vanjikkum Sanni Juram Vann Baedhi Vinjukindra
Soolai Arum Vaadham Pom Thoondadha Theebanamaam
Velaiarum Kannaai Vilambu”

meaning, the ginger cures the following Cough, Cold, Dense Phlegm in the chest. Delirious fever, Diarrhoea, Skin disease, Vaadham. It also makes one feel more hungry

The book even tells the properties of the various types boiled water. Water that is 100% boiled, 75%, 50% and 25% boiled. The following songs explain those

“Nenjerrippu Netrivali Neengaa Puliyaeppam
Vanjamura Vandha Vayitri Noi Vinjiyae
Veezhamal Kattodu Veppirumal Suttaneer
Azhaakku Uttkolla Arum”

meaning burning sensation in the chest due to acidity, continuing sour belch, stomach ailments and dry cough will get cured when an Azhaakku – 1/8th of padi (A utensil used to measure liquid quantities) – of boiled hot water is taken.

This song tells the properties of water that is boiled 25% and 50%

“Kaalkooru Kaaineeraai Kaarigaiyae Piththampom
Maelkooru Paadhi Sutta Venniraal Maelkoorum
Vaadhamodu Piththampom Vaithu Oru Naal Sendru Unn
Urodham Pom Odi Olithu”

meaning, the water that is 25% boiled cures the (Piththam) body heat, and the water that is 50% boiled cures Vaadham and Piththam. If that water is taken a day after boiling then the diseases will run away and hide.

The next song is about the most hated of vegetables, but more medicinal in value, the Sundakkai. The Sundakkai is hated because of its bitter taste. But it is dried in the sun after soaking in curd to make the sundakkai vaththal, that is fried and eaten as such or to prepare a mouth watering kulambu variety called vaththal kulambu. The property of the Sundakkai is

“Nenjin Kabam Pom Niraikirumi Noiyum Pom
Vinju Vaadhathin Vilaivu Pom Vanjiyarae
Vaayai Kasapikkum Maamaliyil Ulla Sundai
Kaayai Suvaipaarukku Kaan”

meaning Sudakkai, that grows in the mountains and tastes bitter cures dense phlegm in the chest, Diseases caused by bacteria, the effects of Vaadham

The more amazing thing about Padhartha Guna Chintamani is that it not only explains the characteristics of the food items we eat, but it also explains the characteristics of the metal and stone utensils in which food and medicines are prepared. The following songs tell that

“Karungarrkal Vuthavuzhtham Kaanil Udalkku Inbaam
Nerukiratha Kall Dhosham Neekkum Orungu Vellai
Kall Marundho Veeramodu Kaaramum Ill Manjal Ammiyin
Marundho Noi Vilakka Enn”

meaning, black stones (Ammi, Aattukall) used to prepare food and medicine are really good for health. Red stones, cure ailments. White stones reduce the impact of spicyness and potence of the food. But the yellow stone has not medicinal value.

“Thengin Kudukkai Thigirithandha Paathirathaar
Nankiraa Punmarundhum Thanmarundhaam- Venkalathaal
Mai Yiruppaal Kattaikalaal Maarkombaal Paathirangal
Seiyyin Irandaam Patcham Seppu”

meaning, the shell of the coconut, the utensils of bamboo are good for storing medicines. But utensils out of bronze, iron, wood, horns of animals stand second to them.

Let us conclude digging further into this treasure with one last song about Vilaambalam. One great fruit with a hard shell, usually mixed with Khandsari Sugar (Vellam). The taste is really out of this world. The speciality of this fruit is that the lump of fruit inside has no contact with the outer shell. If shaken, we can hear the fruit lump rolling in. One mysterious information about this fruit is that elephants like this fruit very much and are able to absorb the fruit within without breaking the outer shell, mysterious it may sound, but it is the fact that I have heard about elephants and this fruit. The song goes like this

“Eppodhum Meikidhamaam Eelai Irumal Kabamum
Veppaarum Thaagamum Pom Meipasiyaam Ippuviyil
Endrakilum Kanimael Ichchai Vaithu Thinna Enni
Thindral Vilaankaniyai Thinn”

meaning, The Vilaambalam is always good for health. It cures severe cold, cough, dense phlegm, thirst during summer. It also induces digestion. If you intend and desire to eat any fruit on this earth, then eat this Vilambalam

The book is completely amazing, because the collection and classification of so many plants, vessels and meat of animals is a herculean one. And that too prepared hundreds of years ago, when the people in most countries at that time wouldn’t have even imagined of such research. We should really admire and praise Theraiyar for such an invaluable text. This one text proves, how advanced the Tamil People were during those days. But the sad part of it is that masterpieces like this are slowly disappearing because our people really don’t take care of it or are in the oblivion that these texts even exist. I hunted this book for nearly a year and finally got it in the bookfair held recently in our city. Books like these are not only a great medical reference, but they stand to add to our pride as Tamilians.

More to come, until then…